Although Anton Podstraský was fond of photographing the dynamics of life, it is probably his records of abjection, destitution, personal and social abandonment and inertia that are more important for the history of photography. Few presented as realistic a picture as he did of “Real Socialism” in the closing stages of its existence. However, his images of “life at a standstill” are not only disturbing because they relate to a now dead historical epoch. Podstraský sought out the environments that were most hazardous from a professional perspective. It is known that he was beaten several times and his photographic equipment destroyed. Despite this, he returned persistently to the same environment. In a television documentary about Podstraský, he said “The greatest human riffraff, the dregs, have something about them. It is also fantastic that in that poverty, those conditions, in that environment there is a greater chance of art being created.” It is a somewhat unexpected statement from a man who refused to be treated for his alcoholism and bemoaned his own earthly existence at every possible opportunity. He was not a war correspondent, but despite that it was as if he was constantly moving around in a war zone. Probably no other Slovakian photographer reached the very bottom of human existence as often as Podstraský did. When superficially brow sing his photographs, we may blithely think to ourselves that these images of degradation and failure do not, thank God, affect us personally. On closer inspection, though, we see what the artist is telling us: this is you and I, this is what our existence really looks like.
Aurel Hrabušický – extract from the text of a monograph Anton Podstraský, Slovart, 2013.
Anton Podstraský was born in 1939 v Pružin. He studied at the former School of Industrial Arts in Bratislava. He worked for 14 years as a photographer of the Koliba Film Studios in Bratislava. His photographs were published in newspapers and journals up to the mid-1990s. He died in hospital on 21 August 2007 in Bratislava.
ANTON PODSTRASKÝ, photographs from the 1970s and 80s. Courtesy of M. Miklas and Galérie Photoport.